Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians and Association Finalize Three-Year Labor Contract with 15.8% Wage Increase

by Madison Thomas
Philadelphia Orchestra labor agreement

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and its musicians have confirmed a new labor deal that will elevate minimum salaries by 15.8% across a span of three years.

Unveiled on Saturday evening, the pact with Local 77 of the American Federation of Musicians is set to be effective from September 11 of the current year until September 13, 2026. The wage escalations stipulated in the agreement are 6% for the initial year, followed by 4.5% in both the second and third years. This new accord takes the place of a prior four-year contract, which reached its term on September 10.

In a joint statement, Ralph W. Muller and Michael D. Zisman, who serve as co-chairs of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center Inc., noted, “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s unprecedented disruptions, both parties were tasked with identifying a fiscally responsible and sustainable course for the future.”

The union has stipulated that the agreement mandates the management to incrementally augment the number of musicians employed each year. It also calls for the maintenance of a contractual workforce comprising 105 musicians and two librarians. Musicians filling in as substitutes or additional players will be entitled to 100% of the full-time musicians’ salaries by the third service year and will be compensated if their scheduled performances are cancelled on less than a fortnight’s notice.

Furthermore, the new contract abolishes a reduced overtime rate for film performances and mandates two days of respite following the majority of Sunday concerts.

David Fay, a double bassist who has been a part of the orchestra since 1984 and chairs the musicians’ committee, declared, “This contract symbolizes a triumph both for the current ensemble and for the future of the Philadelphia Orchestra.” He went on to laud the orchestra’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, for his demonstrable respect and support for a just agreement.

For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the base salary has been set at $152,256, which also includes remuneration under the electronic media agreement. As part of the contract, the union disclosed that each musician would receive an auxiliary payment ranging from $750 to $1,500 annually.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who has held the position of music director since the 2012-2013 season, was seen wearing a blue T-shirt endorsing the union during a public rehearsal at Saratoga on August 11.

It is noteworthy that the orchestra had filed for bankruptcy in 2011 but successfully emerged from it the following year. A labor strike by the musicians took place on September 30, 2016, leading to the cancellation of the season’s opening night, but an accord was reached just two days later.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Philadelphia Orchestra labor agreement

What is the duration of the new labor agreement between the Philadelphia Orchestra and its musicians?

The new labor agreement will be in effect for three years, from September 11 of the current year until September 13, 2026.

How much will the minimum salaries for musicians increase?

The minimum salaries for musicians will see an increase of 15.8% over the three-year period of the contract. The increase is structured as 6% in the first year, followed by 4.5% in the second and third years.

What does the new agreement say about staffing levels?

The agreement mandates the Philadelphia Orchestra management to gradually increase the number of musicians hired each year. It also specifies that a minimum of 105 musicians and two librarians must be contractually employed.

Are there new terms concerning overtime and rest days?

Yes, the new contract eliminates a lower rate of overtime pay for musicians performing in film presentations. Additionally, it mandates two days of rest after most Sunday concerts.

What are the base salary figures for the fiscal year 2022-2023?

For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the base salary for musicians is set at $152,256. This amount includes wages earned under the electronic media agreement.

Will there be any additional payments for musicians?

Yes, as per the union’s disclosure, each musician will receive a supplemental payment ranging from $750 to $1,500 annually.

What is the historical context of labor relations for the Philadelphia Orchestra?

The orchestra had previously filed for bankruptcy in 2011 but emerged from it a year later. There was also a strike by musicians on September 30, 2016, which led to the cancellation of that season’s opening night. However, an agreement was reached two days later.

Who are the key people involved in this agreement?

Ralph W. Muller and Michael D. Zisman, co-chairs of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center Inc., and David Fay, a double bassist who chairs the musicians’ committee, are key figures in this agreement. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin has also been supportive of the new contract.

More about Philadelphia Orchestra labor agreement

  • Philadelphia Orchestra Official Website
  • American Federation of Musicians Local 77
  • Kimmel Center Inc. Official Website
  • Historical Overview of Philadelphia Orchestra’s Labor Relations
  • Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s Biography and Career
  • U.S. Labor Laws and Collective Bargaining Agreements
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Performing Arts Organizations

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Karen White October 22, 2023 - 2:25 pm

Finally, a win for the arts. In this economy, a secure job and a fair pay are no small feat. Hats off.

Tim Johnson October 22, 2023 - 10:22 pm

Just read this and it’s bout time musicians get their fair share. Also props to Nézet-Séguin for showing solidarity.

Mike O'Connell October 23, 2023 - 12:33 am

15.8% in 3 years? Inflation’s going up too ya know. wonder how this will balance out long-term.

Emily Davis October 23, 2023 - 3:01 am

Super happy to hear this! Always loved their concerts. The two rest days are a nice touch, everyone needs a break.

Rachel Chen October 23, 2023 - 3:22 am

Intrigued by the management’s commitment to increase staffing levels. Looks like we’ll be hearing more diverse sounds soon?

John Smith October 23, 2023 - 5:22 am

Wow, that’s a pretty hefty salary bump over 3 years. Good for the musicians, they work hard and deserve it!

Sarah Williams October 23, 2023 - 6:02 am

honestly this is overdue, given the orchestra’s history and their bankruptcy thing. Finally, some financial stability for these artists.


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